HARRISON, N.J. — For the first time, MLS Commissioner Don Garber addressed the debate surrounding this summer’s schedule of international club exhibitions, not mincing words when it came to the 7-0 drubbing that Manchester United handed the Seattle Sounders earlier in July.
“Nobody likes to lose 7-0,” Garber said to a throng of media at halftime of Wednesday’s All-Star Game. “You don’t like to lose 7-0 in a schoolyard soccer match. Our view is that if we’re going to play these games, we ought to play to win. And if a team can’t fit it into their schedule either because of congestion or their own priorities, then they shouldn’t play in those games.
“I think Seattle regrets playing their second team, reserves, even trialists against Manchester United. I don’t think we’d ever do anything like that again.”
The Commissioner made it clear that the prioritizing of the congested-fixture schedule, which includes multiple competitions and exhibitions, ultimately lies with the individual clubs and each team may very well have a different approach.
“Years ago, the league made all these decisions on behalf of the clubs,” Garber said. “Today the clubs have to make those decisions. If [the New York Red Bulls] believe that it’s in their interest to play against Boca [Juniors], PSG and Arsenal and play in a massive, popular and important tournament [Emirates Cup], I’m going to respect that. I’m not going to tell them what they should do with their priorities. Years ago, we may have enforced this differently. But it’s not our view now.”
What should help the teams make those decisions will be potential changes in the competitive calendar, which should ease the congestion if the discussions taking place among the league owners come to fruition.
“We’re confined in our opinion by this narrow calendar,” the MLS Commissioner said. “At some point we’re going to be able to push that calendar deeper and deeper into March and perhaps in to February. And when we’re able to do that, I think we’ll be able to free up some of the congestion.
“It goes into how many games we play and how many rivalries we try to have, whether we’re conference-based or whether with 19 teams we’ll ever be able to be balanced. All that stuff is being talked about now.”